16 for 16: No. 11 Ronda Rousey returns

December 23, 2016

Ronda Rousey returns to the Octagon on December 30th.  Although this has yet to happen at the time of this post, it still makes the list as one of the top business stories for 2016.

The Rousey rise and fall is well-documented as she went from fan favorite to a polarizing figure among MMA fans and media.  Her recent decision to not do any media in lead-up to her return at UFC 207 has stirred some resentment from MMA folks.  This is likely due to the fact that she has allowed limited access for stories that shed positive light onto her comeback (i.e., Ellen and Ramona Shelburne at ESPN).  It’s controlling the message and not becoming entangled in internet rumors.  In the Shelburne piece, she explains that she had made too many people happy while leaving herself to deal with depression.

Clearly, Rousey hates to lose and her KO loss to Holm has set her into a self-imposed exile and she will resurface on December 30th. Like many ultra-competitive, pro athletes, Rousey hates to lose.  Her methods to return and win are turning the fans against her, but like Conor McGregor when he did not want to do media for UFC 200 for a rematch against Nate Diaz, they do not want any distractions.

With that being said, the Rousey brand is still activating around her return to the Octagon.  She is the star of a new ad campaign for the Procter & Gamble brand.  This summer she was the star of Reebok’s #PerfectNever campaign which nodded at her loss to Holly Holm.  Rousey also did was part of an ad campaign for Carl’s Jr.  So, while Rousey is turning down the usual MMA media requests, her business interests are still working for her.

The UFC has advertised UFC 207 around Rousey’s return and has seemingly left out the champion Amanda Nunes in its marketing.  But, to be realistic, it’s Rousey that is the star here and her proven record of bringing in PPV dollars is the reason why Rousey receives top billing and not the champion.

With UFC 207 being on a Friday night, you might expect a downturn in PPV buys considering the last time a UFC PPV aired on a Friday night it was UFC 141 in 2011.  Brock Lesnar versus Alistair Overeem headlined that card but the event drew 535,000 PPV buys – a low considering Lesnar was featured.  Notably, Nate Diaz-Donald Cerrone were the co-main event.

Rousey drew 900,000 PPV buys in her title defense against Bethe Correia at UFC 190 in August 2015 and her loss to Holly Holm at UFC 193 drew 1.1M PPV buys.

Rousey’s mainstream fans which include women should help bolster next Friday’s UFC 207.  Also, the curious, casual fan will likely tune in to see Rousey fight.  You might expect another buy rate around 1 million buys making 2016 the best year on PPV for the company with 5 UFC PPVs (196, 200, 202, 205 and possibly 207) over 1 million buys.

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